By Bert Eljera
LAS VEGAS – Coming off a surprise third-round loss, Grandmaster Wesley So came up well prepared this time and played aggressively against Hikaru Nakamura, the world’s No. 3, but was just rewarded with a draw in the U.S. Chess Championships in Saint Louis.
Playing the black pieces, So, whose loss to Samuel Sevian in the third round dropped him back to No.8 in the world, chose a sharp line of the Tartakower Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined.
On the 31st move, So gained a pawn when Nakamura blundered. It was an advantage the 21-year-old Bacoor, Cavite native carried into the end game.
It was not enough however, to make headway in a pawn and rook ending, and the game was drawn on the 56th move.
“I haven’t seen a clear winning plan,” So said in an interview with Maurice Ashley later. He added that some of his moves were intended to “complicate things,” not necessarily to pursue a winning line.
For the rest of the tournament, So, who considered yesterday’s loss a big stumble, said he’ll just take it one day at a time.
“You can’t think about winning the tournament,” with more games still to play.
For Nakamura, who admitted he was behind most of the game, the draw was disappointing but it was better than a loss.
“If I lost, I would not sleep tonight,” said the 27-year-old Nakamura in an interview with chess24.com.
He said he is happy he is sharing the lead.
“But I’m not putting distance between me and the other players,” Nakamura said, adding So and his rivals can catch up with him.
All other games in the fourth round were drawn and the standings were unchanged. Nakamura and Webster University top gun Ray Robson are showing the way with three points in four games, followed by So with 2.5 points.
Defending champion Gata Kamsky share the next with two others, all with two points.
The tournament offers a total prize pot of $175,000 with the champion earning $45,000.
Sevian, 14, the youngest ever to be American grandmaster, was slightly outplayed in a sharp varation of the Semi-Slav defense.
The two played a fascinatingly complex middle game but Sevian grabbed the advantage, forcing So, then ranked No.5 in the world’s live rating, to resign after 41 moved..
“It was a mistake, going for such a dangerous line without knowing all of the subtleties,” So said of his loss.
On his Facebook page, he posted, ” Disappointments can help us grown stronger.”